TRAGESSER: Dismissing COVID At The Border Is Foolish

John Moore/Getty Images

Font Size:

Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the impact of COVID-19 at the southern border and the role of Title 42 — a public health order that allows for quick removal of illegal aliens from the country during disease outbreaks.

Rather than admit that COVID-19 remains a public health threat at the southern border and acknowledge that Title 42 remains necessary as illegal migration continues to reach historic levels, Dr. Fauci dismissed these realities.

Dr. Fauci believes that large-scale illegal immigration is not a significant contributing factor to the spread of COVID-19 in our country. During his interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Dr. Fauci asserted that “When you have 700,000 Americans dead and millions and millions and millions of Americans getting infected, you don’t want to look outside to the problem. The problem is within our own country.”

It’s unclear why Dr. Fauci does not want to fully discuss the relationship between illegal migration and COVID-19. What is clear is that illegal aliens are bringing COVID-19 into the country and little is being done to mitigate the situation.

Due to the Biden administration’s immigration policies, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens arrive each month at the southern border. Most arrive from the Northern Triangle, where vaccination rates in Guatemala and Honduras remain at less than 25%. Many others come from extra-continental countries where vaccination rates remain in the single digits. Migrants often travel in large groups — something that the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) highly discourages to help avoid spread of the disease. Once migrants arrive at the border, they are often not tested for the disease and are released into the interior of the country. It doesn’t take a medical expert to understand that what’s currently happening at the southern border is a catalyst for COVID-19 spreading into our country.

Data also suggest that the COVID virus being carried by people crossing the border illegally is a legitimate public health threat. In August, local officials in McAllen, Texas, announced that out of nearly 88,000 migrants released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the city since mid-February, more than 7,000 had tested positive for COVID-19, a positivity rate of more than eight percent. Positive tests became more frequent in recent weeks, surpassing 16%.

“More than 18 percent of migrant families and 20 percent of unaccompanied minors who recently crossed the U.S. border tested positive for Covid on leaving Border Patrol custody” over a two- to three-week period, according to an August briefing memo sent to President Joe Biden.

In many cases, officials cannot force migrants who test positive to isolate or quarantine. “If they’re not COVID-negative I know they’re trying to discourage that (leaving) but we really don’t have that (ability) — not the city, not the county, law enforcement or Catholic Charities — have any legal authority to hold them,”  Xochitl Mora, a spokeswoman for the city of McAllen, said in an interview.

This means that thousands of COVID-19 positive migrants are being released into the interior of the country. And those are only individuals that immigration officials know about.

Dr. Fauci is simply wrong to suggest that our country should not “look outside to the problem.” Common sense and the data indicate otherwise.

During this same interview, Dr. Fauci did not explicitly support the use of Title 42 at the southern border. He argued that “expelling [illegal aliens] is not the solution to an outbreak.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Title 42 has had a significant effect in swiftly removing those who have entered the country unlawfully. In Fiscal Year 2021, the U.S. removed nearly one million illegal aliens under this order. Without this measure in place, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects a 400,000-person surge in migration in one month — something the Biden administration cannot handle, especially in light of its disastrous management of the some 14,000 Haitians in Del Rio, Texas. Many of these COVID-19 positive migrants will end up being flown and bused throughout the country due to the Biden administration’s “catch and release” policies.

Dr. Fauci’s comments regarding Title 42 are at odds with DHS’s Office of the Inspector General’s newest report in which it urges DHS leadership to commit to strengthening COVID-19 preventative measures at the southern border to protect its “workforce, support staff, communities, and migrants at greater risk for contracting the virus.” Title 42 protects many, and without it in place COVID-19 risks proliferate.

Dr. Fauci’s remarks during this Sunday’s CNN interview are concerning and misguided. The nation’s top medical adviser dismissed the severity of COVID-19 at the southern border and the critical importance of the Title 42 public health order. While he is correct that our country needs to work harder within to mitigate COVID-19 spread, controlling who and what comes into the country is also part of that strategy. Without accepting the realities of the border and Title 42, Dr. Fauci is jeopardizing the nation’s public health.

Matthew Tragesser is press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C.